Issue no 4 16 May 2007

top story

  • Most of Africa’s small state-owned television stations have a low skills base and are poorly financed with a legacy of extremely old equipment. If African public sector broadcasting is to survive as anything more than Vanity TV for the Governments that fund it, it needs to break the current mould and generate content that might be shared or sold to its peers. On a recent visit to Rwanda, Russell Southwood interviewed the Director of Rwanda Television Kije Mugisha about these issues.

    When was Rwanda Television set up?

    Originally it was set up in 1979 as a Department of the Ministry doing production but it became a television station in 1995 after the war.

    When did you join?

    I joined in June 2006 and up until that point I had worked as a media consultant in Rwanda.

    What’s the balance of local and international programming?

    Currently 85-90% of programming is international. Most local programmes are shown between 6-10pm in the evenings. We’re trying to empower and strengthen our production unit at the moment. We have to step up our equipment resources and get experts to help teach how to carry out effective TV production and post-production. Capacity building is the key. We have 100 employees in all.

    We want to do this so that programmes are not only available for viewers of Rwanda Television but also outside the country. We want to show a range of Rwandan issues to people elsewhere in Africa and around the world. We want to show good governance, peace and reconciliation and progress. We need to let people know of the investment opportunities that come from the President’s strong ICT initiative. Also to let tourists hear about how there are lots of opportunities for eco-tourist packages.

    Is there a training programming to address the need to build production skills?

    Currently there is no training plan. However, we sort out for journalists to go to networks in Africa and elsewhere at least a few times a year. We need an in-house training plan and more industry training outside of the Station.

    How many people does the station reach?

    It’s nationwide but we’re still trying to assess how strong the signal is in different parts of the country. Some parts of the country don’t receive any signal at all. There’s difficulties because of the country’s topography. There are lots of hills between the capital Kigali and the country’s borders. There’s a network of 21 masts and we also have satellite capacity but it’s not currently in use. However, our sister station Radio Rwanda reaches 100% of the country.

    We do not currently have any audience survey work but we’re planning to do one very soon. But we estimate that we reach around half a million people in Kigali and perhaps 3% of people outside Kigali. There are an estimated 7 people per household and 300,000 households in Kigali. On the other hand, Radio Rwanda reaches more or less all of the country’s 9 million population.

    When are you going digital?

    We have had talks about going digital and we’ve been doing testing with DVBT.

    How much does the Station spend and what are you spending on international programming?

    There hasn’t been a specific budget for radio and TV. I have a rough idea of overall spending but there are no clear estimates. I’ve no idea what we’re spending on bought-in programming. Our biggest issue in spending terms is our equipment. The broadcast equipment is 16 years old and really needs to be replaced. We’d like to modernise and use the new technologies, particularly in the rural areas. We do not have studios outside of Kigali but we get news from correspondents across the country.

    Is there any competition for the TV channel?

    There’s no Rwandan Pay-TV channel but DSTV is here.

    What about community radio stations?

    There’s only a handful of them at the moment but there’s a plan to add two every year for the next two years. This will come out of our budget and be supported by the Ministry of Finance.

content

  • One Africa Television started with their first 30-minute local news bulletin last Friday, signaling the start of daily, local news from Mondays to Fridays at 19h30.

    The News on One anchors are Liberty Lister-Verbaan, Strauss Lunyangwe, Botha Ellis and Nina Katangana. One Africa Television is a 100 per cent Namibian-owned commercial free-to-air television station that was launched in November 2003.

    It currently transmits to Windhoek, Rehoboth, Okahandja, Grootfontein, Gobabis, Keetmanshoop, Luederitz, Outjo, Otjiwarongo, Tsumeb, Ondangwa, Oshakati, Rundu, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.

    Shiluwa said by end of June, One Africa Television would be broadcasting to more than 90 per cent of Namibia's urban population.

    The Namibian Windhoek, 2nd May 2007

  • The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in conjunction with Warner Bros put on the first public screening of the movie "Blood Diamond" in Sierra Leone. This movie which, according to Josette Sheeran, the WFP Executive Director, "opened the world's eyes to the tragic suffering endured by so many people across the country," was shown for free at the British Council on the 8th and 9th of May and on the 10th at the Family Kingdom.

    WFP which is the world's largest humanitarian agency is currently providing food assistance to over 300,000 people in Sierra Leone in its effort at reconstructing the country after a decade long civil war.

    Africa 2007. The film includes scenes depicting realistic aid operations as undertaken by WFP in the 1990s while feeding the thousands who fled from and within Sierra Leone and neighboring countries.

    Concord Times, Freetown, 7 May 2007

  • RAS Jingo is one of the organisers of the increasingly annual Amakula Film Festival in Kampala and in an interview with David Tumusiime of the New Vision, he spoke about this year’s Festival which has just finished.

    What is the Amakula Festival?

    Amakula's always a 10-day film festival and this year it runs from May 3 to 13 at the National Theater and in 30 video halls in all the five divisions of Kampala. Some of these are Kawempe Young Boyz, Pentagon Videos in Natete and Gunners Video Hall in Kisenyi. The festival's been going since 2004 but and theme this year is "Travels, transit".

    The theme is Travel, Transit because of the state of our society today. I mean if you look at the way we live, we are constantly travelling, in some sort of journey - we're mobile. Most of the films made by Africans are about the journey to the Diaspora or the journey back home. Films are a medium that take you places. We know about most places because we have seen them in a film. Through film you get to travel to different places all in the comfort of your living room! That's why it's our theme this year.

    What’s in the Festival this year?

    We have over 200 movies this year, from all over the world! Thirteen of them are entries from Uganda that will surprise people with their quality. We got entries from people like Ashraf Ssemogerere with Murder in the City, the short version, so you can get a chance to see why it got him kidnapped! The South African movie Son of Man: Modern Story of Jesus Christ is a must-watch! Then of course we have our international films like Borat, Catch A Fire, Dave Chapelle's Block Party and many others. The best thing about Amakula is that it's free entry for everyone!

    What has the Amakula Festival’s influence been?

    In Amakula's four years, the best change I have seen is the increase in the number and quality of movies Ugandans are submitting to the festival. Before, the only Ugandan movies that were being made were NGO movies - you know movies a filmmaker was contracted to make by an NGO, so they did not belong to the filmmakers. The festival has consistently encouraged creativity and it's beginning to show! The industry's growing.

    In 2005 we introduced a section called The Golden Impala East African Short Film Competition that is meant to give films shown in the competition a chance on the international scene by giving them more exposure in international festivals. I'm proud to report that the 2006 winner of the Impala, Donald Mugisha, has not disappointed and has gone on to release Divisionz this year!

    New Vision, Kampala, 5 May 2007

  • South Africa will spend between R2 billion to R5 billion on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastracture required to host a successful 2010 FIFA World Cup. Zakes Mnisi of the Local Organising Committee said last week that the country would provide all the technologies needed to execute the event.

    Mnisi said the LOC would also establish an International Broadcasting Centre (IBC), which would be the central hub of all broadcasting activities during the World Cup. "All telecommunications transmissions from or to venues or non-venues will end and start at the IBC," he explained, adding the IBC centre would be a point of delivery for multilateral or unilateral signal broadcasters.

    Encompassing 30,000 square metres, the IBC would also provide space for broadcasters to set up temporary newsrooms. The Director for 2010 in the Department of Communications, Padiso Makolo, said reliable back-up power would be supplied for the IBC.

    FIFA will allocate 3 million tickets for the World Cup but ICTs would enable those without tickets to watch the games in fan parks by sending live feeds to high definition big screen TVs. "This event also provides an opportunity for government to accelerate the provision of robust, state-of-the-art ICT infrastructure in the country."

    Further to this, Makolo said the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), which has been granted the broadcasting rights for the event, is now assessing the involvement of local and continental broadcasters in the event. In terms of the legacy projects, the ICT infrastructure to be put in place for the FIFA 2010 World Cup would be used for other events after the soccer spectacle in June of that year.

    BuaNews Tshwane, 8th May 2007

  • The Desert Soul project of the Namibian Red Cross Society has launched a booklet titled 'Stop The Abuse Against Women' and its second educational television series for children. The booklet is printed in English, Afrikaans, Oshiwambo, Silozi and Otjiherero, with a print run of 600 000, and it will be distributed in clinics, hospitals, youth centres and Police stations. The booklet is aimed at educating Namibian society about the different forms of abuse, what to do when you are abused, and the places to go to for help.

    The TV series consists of 26 episodes with a primary target of children between eight and 18 years old. It addresses health issues such as HIV care and social issues such as child-headed households, children's rights to education and xenophobia.

    Desert Soul is a health and development communication programme resulting from a partnership entered into in 2002 between the Namibia Red Cross and Soul City, a South African NGO. The objective of this partnership is to produce health communication materials.

    The Namibian Windhoek, 10th May 2007

  • The television broadcasting market in South Africa is in for a shake-up with the introduction of more players and greater competition. As the media landscape changes shape through convergence, the boundaries between telecoms operators (telcos) and broadcasters are becoming blurred.

    Telcos, which are facing dwindling voice revenues because of disruptive technologies such as Voice Over Internet Protocol (Voip), are looking for new revenue streams, one of which is broadcast TV. Telkom, South Africa’s fixed-line incumbent, is positioning its subsidiary Telkom Media to roll out TV offerings via an extensive fibre network that it uses to deliver its services, and is one of 18 applicants that have responded to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa) call for subscription broadcasting license applications.

    Because of its extensive fibre backbone, Telkom Media is seen to have an advantage over other applicants. A recent analyst’s report, which details strategies telcos have adopted in their move into the broadcasting arena, suggests that free-to-air channels will be the biggest losers in the fight for the advertising buck.

    The report uses international examples to suggest that the highly interactive broadcast models provided by TV via broadband offerings will threaten the advertising revenue of free-to-air channels such as e.tv and subscription broadcasters such as Multichoice.

    The report suggests that, in the short term, the introduction of personal video recorders (PVR) will threaten the advertising revenue of free-to-air TV channels because more and more people will record TV content to watch at their own leisure, which will result in more viewers skipping through advertising.

    However, the report points to the interactive qualities offered by Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), which will allow advertisers to target audiences more specifically, as the biggest threat to free-to-air channels and satellite broadcasters. IPTV services will be able to call on massive libraries of content, which they can deliver on demand to the home via the samecable that delivers fixed landline and broadband, so that viewers can watch what they want, when they want.

    “By applying new technologies like IPTV, it should be possible to target individual households with TV adverts individually tailored to their interests and spending patterns,” says the report. “The traditional free-to-air broadcast model is likely to come under severe pressure, with such broadcasters perhaps having to move to a subscription model – thus becoming ‘pay-on-air’,” says the report.

    This may explain e.tv’s application for a subscription broadcasting license as it is perhaps pre-empting the threat to its advertising revenue and positioning itself as a subscription-based broadcaster.

    Attempts this week by the Mail & Guardian to discuss this with e.tv CEO Marcel Golding were fruitless, with Golding refusing to comment during the build-up to the subscription-broadcasting public hearings scheduled for next month by Icasa.

    The report says that PVR’s can e rolled out cheaply, which will give the technology an initial advantage. However, the IPTV service is the “superior service” and will replace PVR’s in the medium term. “We think that terrestrial TV will struggle initially against PVR-led offerings from media companies, and later against on-demand TV,” says the report,

    The report says that ventures into the broadcasting arena by telcos present them with an opportunity to stave off the churn of customers intent on accessing their voice telephony services through other operators. “This approach has the attraction that it allows the operator to defend its lines by selling multi-play bundles, while collecting additional revenue from the pay-TV services,” it says.

    A more aggressive approach would be to cut the cost of the multichannel TV offering, perhaps giving it away free in order to sign up as many customers as possible and lock them into the incumbent before they turn to competitors. This strategy was employed successfully by Hong Kong’s PCCW, where declining line numbers stabilized and then increased over 18 months.

    Multichoice spokesperson Marilyn Watson says the introduction of PVR has given advertisers an opportunity to raise their game. “When we launched the PVR, a lot of advertising agencies were concerned,” says Watson. “We said” ‘If you make your advertising entertaining, people will choose not to opt out.’”

    Watson says Multichoice also offers advertisers dedicated advertising locations (DAL), where an advertiser can use a dedicate channel to provide in-depth information about its products. Watson says the DAL option has been successfully used by clients such as BMW and Jack Daniels, who were very happy with the results.

    BMW’s DAL channel flighted for two weeks, attracting 240 000 viewers who stayed on the channel for an average of six minutes. However, ultimately satellite broadcasters and PVR cannot offer the ability to target advertising in accordance with customers’ interests and spending patterns. This could prove the deciding factor in who wins the war for the advertising buck.

    Mail and Guardian, 12 May 2007

  • Gateway TV Uganda (GTV), a subsidiary of Gateway Broadcasting Service of the UK, has started broadcasting on Ugandan airwaves. The new satellite-based pay TV, whose signal is currently being tested, will be officially launched next month.

    Subscribers will be required to acquire a decoder, smartcard and a dish to access the numerous international channels as well as GTV's own channels created especially to satisfy local tastes.

    GTV will compete with Multichoice Uganda, which has hitherto been enjoying a monopoly in the pay TV market in the country.

    The Monitor Kampala, 7th May 2007

  • The Nation Media Group (NMG) last week launched a regional media training programme. Dubbed the Media Lab, the one-year course will feature practising journalists and university and college students interested in journalism.

    NMG chief executive officer, Linus Gitahi, welcomed the pioneer group of 15 students from Kenyan and Ugandan universities, saying the course would expose them to both business and journalism training. They will undertake business training between May and July and editorial/journalism training from September this year to April next year. The Media Lab coordinator, David Aduda, said the trainees would also be mentored by seasoned NMG editors and reporters.

    NMG editors and managers visited 16 educational institutions to recruit the 15 trainees from 1,455 applicants. They include 10 Kenyans and five Ugandans. Plans are under way to recruit five Tanzanians in the next three months.

    The Nation Nairobi, 8th May 2007

  • God TV, a Christian broadcaster that transmits 24 hours a day from Jerusalem into 214 countries and territories, is seeking to boost its presence in Africa. "God TV has a strategic plan for the continent," CEO and founder Rory Alec says. "We cover the whole continent by way of two satellites at present, with the strategy of building transmitters in each country. We have three in Kenya and are planning to launch a fourth in Tanzania."

    Alec is visiting Africa on a 12-day, six-country trip to officially launch his channel's third satellite in Kenya, shoot footage for a news report on the continent for his channel, and visit projects that God TV has funded.

    God TV's goals are clear. In this case, it is to "reach 1-billion souls". Global broadcasting giant CNN says it reaches 2-billion (people, rather than souls) worldwide. The 41-year-old Alec's channel already claims 125-million households, with a "potential" 440-million viewers.

    But with larger households in developing countries than in developed ones, it is clearly an investment to get more viewers in Africa. God TV aims to have a terrestrial transmitter in every capital city in Africa.

    In a doctrinal sense, Christian broadcasting is a conservative game. In the business model sense, the battle for souls is global. God TV, with only 12 years under its belt and an annual budget of £20m (68% of which comes from donations and 19% from sponsored airtime), is the new kid on the block.

    Los Angeles-based Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the largest Christian broadcaster in the world, has been going since 1973 and in 2005 had an income of $208m. It began broadcasting in Africa in 1986. In fact, the TBN operation based in Bhisho, then Ciskei capital, was the first overseas operation outside the US. TBN, which runs on DStv, also broadcasts through terrestrial stations in nine African countries. Texas-based Daystar Television Network, the second-largest such broadcaster, began in 1984. "We're being told we're the third-largest and fastest growing," Alec says.

    Business Day Johannesburg, 9th May 2007

  • Nation TV Uganda has announced that it will resume its broadcast, three months after it was switched off. General manager Victor Ngei said in a press statement that they had ironed out their differences with the Broadcasting Council. "NTV's return to transmission follows a memorandum of understanding with the council in which technical issues that resulted to its closure will be resolved amicably in a specified period," the statement read.

    But the Broadcasting Council denied it had cleared the station to resume its operations. When contacted yesterday, the chairman, Godfrey Mutabazi, said they were still in discussions with NTV. "Nothing has been signed yet. We hope that there will be a positive solution soon. We are getting closer to an understanding. We are meeting them on Monday," Mutabazi said.

    The station was put off air by the Broadcasting Council on grounds that some of its broadcasting equipment did not meet the industry's technical standards. The council also claimed the 150m mast belonging to the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, which NTV is renting, is overburdened.

    The Parliament early this month passed a motion urging the Government to resolve the technical and administrative issues surrounding NTV and have the station back on air as soon as possible.

    NTV is part the Nation Media Group, which also owns the Daily Monitor newspaper and KFM radio. The parliamentary committee on presidential affairs last month also investigated the closure of the television station. NTV Uganda went on air on December 18, 2006, ahead of a planned official launch in February 2007.

    New Vision Kampala, 29th April 2007

  • The embattled Media Advertising, Printing, Publishing and Packaging Seta (Mappp-Seta) faces a shaky future as the ongoing legal dispute over its suspended CEO, Melanie Bernard-Fryer, further exposes a split between constituents and the board. According to a letter received by Bernard-Fryer's attorneys, she has been advised that her suspension has been lifted.

    She was suspended in March after allegedly blowing the whistle on financial mismanagement in Mappp-Seta. However, according to the Mappp-Seta chairman Martin Deysel, Bernard-Fryer will not be reinstated.

    Dimitri van der Westhuizen, who is representing Bernard- Fryer in the matter, said yesterday he had received a letter from Leppan Beech attorneys stating, "we hereby advise that your client's suspension is lifted with immediate effect".

    Leppan Beech would not comment on the matter, as it was ongoing. Deysel said "Bernard-Fryer was supposed to attend a grievance hearing (on Tuesday), which she did not attend".

    He said the Mappp-Seta was still pursuing the charges brought against her which dealt with financial mismanagement. Last week saw the last of 19 charges in favour of her suspension dropped by the Mappp-Seta. She was advised that she would not be reinstated as CEO, as there would still be a grievance hearing.

    Van der Westhuizen said that, according to Leppan Beech's statement, Bernard-Fryer could resume her duties. Regarding the report that Bernard-Fryer allegedly handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority, Deysel said that Bernard-Fryer's earlier allegations of financial mismanagement within the Seta were "total rubbish".

    For the time being, Mappp-Seta is without a leader as Deysel said the acting-CEO, Gerhard Kemp, also the acting-chief financial officer at Mappp-Seta, had stepped down because he "can't handle both jobs".

    Opposing constituents are reaching boiling point in their frustration with slow transformation within Mappp-Seta. "We will issue a letter of demand (today) requesting a date to be set for an AGM within 72 hours. We call for the overhaul of the board and the election of a new chairman. We also request that the meeting be chaired by the labour department because we have lost all confidence in the current authority," said South African Screen Federation general secretary Nicola Rauch.

    She said the chairwoman had not been legally elected according to the National Skills Act, which superseded the nomination process used in the Mappp-Seta's constitution. She had been supported by four of the seven chambers that fall under Mappp-Seta's control, namely advertising, film and electronic media, arts and culture and publishing.

    Business Day Johannesburg, 3rd May 2007

  • Shabelle Media Network, one of the major independent broadcasters in the country, is celebrating its fifth anniversary on Sunday. A ceremony, which was held in Sahafi Hotel near Kilometer intersection, was attended by more than 150 dignitaries and spectators, including some government officials.

    The highly organized ceremony kicked off with jubilation and applauding around 8:30 AM local time with Shabelle senior correspondent, Mohammed Sheik Addow, spoke to the spectators, recounting the history and the ordeals the media has experienced during its five years it has been feeding both local and international communities with information about the wars, droughts, economy, environment, education and daily events in the Horn of Africa country that has been without affective central institutions since 1991 when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre.

    The independent FM station, Shabelle, was first launched in Merca, southern Somalia, on May 6, 2002 to cater the much needed information to the listeners in Somalia and give the Somali people a comprehensive picture of the political, cultural and economic sate of their country, letting them have the opportunity to express their freedom of speech on the important social and political issues in their country. Shabelle Media Network and its website, Shabelle.net will be remembered for the tangible role it took in covering the droughts in southern Somalia in 2005.

    The ceremony ended around 1:30 pm local time, after several stage dramas were presented by Shabelle comedians, who have long been known with the radio drama QOMAMO (Remorse) that reached out thousands of young militias in the country.

    The radio drama which exposed the ugliness of being an armed militiaman and used by warlords who cared about nobody but themselves and their wealth. Hundreds armed men repented, laid down their arms and joined the rest their average people because of Shabelle radio play that touched the real lives of armed militias in Somalia.

    Shabelle Media Network Mogadishu, 6th May 2007

distribution

  • Officials of frontline TV programme, Quiz Line have been reliving the contributions of the programme to the lives of the viewers and to the broadcast industry in general. Having paid over N10m to over 964 winners in programme seemingly designed for small wins but which has thrown up two large winners, Olu Akinlabi, GM, GetTV, promoters of the programme told about how Quiz Line is adding value to the lives of the viewers.

    Run on network television for small wins of up to N10, 000, two winners have proved that quite humble recently when they took advantage of the bonus opportunity provided by the presenter to strike gold beyond their imagination which catapulted them within easy reach of their dreams.

    Usually the presenter puts a puzzle on screen which answer is supplied by the viewer at home after successfully dialing a particular number and being accepted to proceed beyond the preliminary stage.

    However, one gentleman is reacting to all these developments with a smile. GM of the programme, Akinlabi said his organization was looking for a programme that could help change the lives of TV viewers and chose Quiz Line as one veritable programme to reach as many people as possible within the shortest time possible.

    Played in different parts of the world as an interactive TV show, the drama to win is between the player at home and the presenter who would usually ask the interacting viewer some questions most times presented in form of a puzzle. The programme is highly cerebral and the player must have full concentration in order to get a win. It is a great game show that has continued to attract a large following in the country. This is one of the reasons, Akinlabi told us that the process of play must always be explained to the players.

    Participation in this kind of programme attracts a premium charge and Nigeria has not been an exception, Akinlabi pointed out.

    This Day (Lagos), 9th May 2007

regulation & policy

  • A proposal to ban television and billboard advertising of alcoholic products has the Association of Practitioners in Advertising worried. At stake is the legitimate concern over underage drinking and rising cases of alcohol abuse by teenagers around the country, vis-a-vis the revenues linked to the adverts.

    The national coordinator of the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (Nacada), Mrs Jennifer Kimani, was quoted in the Press recently as saying the organisation is pushing for a total ban on such advertising to protect the youth from alcohol abuse. The move would cut millions of shillings in advertising revenue from the budget of advertisers, advertising firms and media houses, said the Association of Practitioners in Advertising chairperson, Ms Annette Martyres. While welcoming the concern about under-age drinking and rising alcoholism among teenagers, Ms Matryres, however, said the proposed ban was not the answer.

    "The challenge with underage alcohol consumption is a strict enforcement of the law to prevent sale and access," she said. A ban on TV and billboard advertising would be putting the cart before the horse, and have knock-on effects on other sectors in the economy that are directly or indirectly linked to the alcoholic beverages industry. The Government would also have to forego revenue if alcohol sales decline, once the proposed ban comes into effect, she added. She explained that the advertising industry works with its clients to ensure that alcohol adverts are not targeted at people below the legal drinking age of 18 years.

    Adverts are geared towards creating awareness and brand loyalty rather than influence people to start consuming alcohol. She proposed that Nacada convenes a forum for all stakeholders to discuss an all-inclusive strategy to deal with underage alcohol consumption.

    The Nation Nairobi, 8th May 2007

  • Electronic media players yesterday joined their print colleagues in criticising provisions in the Films and Publications Amendment Bill as unconstitutional and “of such severity that they would make broadcasting almost impossible”.

    The bill is designed to crack down on child pornography and abuse but the removal of the exemptions would compel self-censorship or lengthy applications for classification of reports concerning sexual abuse, among other things.

    Last week the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which counts among its members all three television broadcasters in SA as well as all licensed commercial radio stations, pointed out that the removal of the exemptions introduced self-censorship. They said it also “places an impossible duty” on broadcasting in the categories mentioned. Its submission said this was incompatible with the constitution.

    The NAB said broadcasting of child pornography was already illegal and amounted to irresponsible broadcasting. It said all the members of the organisation condemned child porno graphy and had also worked closely with statutory bodies, including the Film and Publications Board, to self regulate the broadcast of adult content.

    The NAB also raised the issue that broadcasting in SA was regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) as provided for in the constitution. It said the self-regulation bodies such as the Broadcasting Complaints Commission operated in terms of Icasa’s sole jurisdiction to regulate broadcasting, and with its sanction. “This renders any intervention in terms of the Films and Publications Act constitutionally invalid as no body other than Icasa or those duly authorised by Icasa has a constitutional mandate to regulate broadcasting content,” the body said.

    This view was supported by Icasa in its submission to the committee — “Any intervention in broadcasting by the Films and Publications Board in terms of the Films and Publications Act would, with respect, be constitutionally incompatible. “Only one state organ is authorised by the constitution to regulate broadcasts and that is the Independent Communications Authority”.

    It said the code of conduct for broadcasters meant that licensed broadcasters were forbidden to broadcast scenes of sexual conduct or nudity involving people under 18 years of age or even those depicted as being under that age. Explicit violent sexual conduct was also forbidden, as was bestiality and degrading sexual conduct. These provisions were far stricter than those envisaged in the bill under discussion.

    Under the guise of clamping down on child pornography, key clauses that exempt the news media from getting approval for the publication of certain material have been removed. On Wednesday a swathe of print media and media freedom organisations complained to Parliament’s home affairs committee that the removal of exemptions to the news media offended the constitutionally guaranteed press freedom and freedom of expression.

    The Media Institute of SA (Misa), the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), Print Media SA (the owners of newspapers), the Publishers’ Association of SA, the Magazine Publishers’ Association and the Media Monitoring Project have argued that the removal of the exemptions for news media was unconstitutional, and called for them to be reinstated.

    From the various submissions made to the committee it was clear that should the amendments be passed into law without any changes, a Constitutional Court challenge would be almost a certainty.

    ANC committee chairman Patrick Chauke told the committee that there was no intention from either the cabinet or Parliament to limit media freedom, but took aim at the South African tabloid market. He pointed specifically to the publication of pictures depicting the rape of children by drug dealers in a Cape tabloid.

    Business Day

  • A cameraman with the Ondo State Radiovision Corporation (OSRC), Dare Folorunso, was beaten to a state of unconsciousness by men from the State Police Command led by an Assistant Commissioner in charge of Criminal Investigations Department, Joshua Mumbo. Folorunso was detailed by his station to record side attraction during the celebration held at the Akure Township Stadium when a female inspector of police raised alarm that the boy had taken an offensive shot.

    Attracted by the alarm, other policemen around descended on Folorunso, who was ordered to surrender his camera failure of which led to him be beaten severely. The arrival of the AC in charge of CID, Joshua Mumbo worsened the boy's situation as the senior police officer snatched a baton from one of the policemen at the scene and clubbed the camera man until he fainted.

    Mumbo, who was described as being too temperamental, was the officer who threatened to shoot within the courtroom when a judge dismissed a case against some accused persons early this year.

    In fact the judge had to rush into his inner chamber when Jumbo threatened to shoot anybody that prevents him from re-arresting the accused persons. For fear of being attacked, the AC fled the scene while the cameraman was rushed to the State Specialist Hospital , Akure. Other journalists and management staff of the OSRC were surprised when they got to the hospital and found their one of their colleagues handcuffed and labeled "Unknown Man" trying to disrupt May Day Celebration in the hospital record.

    It took the intervention of the Head of Service, Alaba Isijola, other senior journalists, Commissioner of Police for the state command, Innocent Ilozuoke, the AC in charge of Operations, Bodunde Michael before the handcuff was removed. In swift reaction, the Ondo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), condemned in strong terms the dastardly act personally carried out by an officer in the rank of an Assistant Commissioner. The union in a statement signed by the council chairman, Dele Atunbi questioned the effrontery of the purported officer to even handcuff the cameraman after his brutalization while performing his official duties.

    This Day Lagos, 2nd May 2007

  • A criminal court in Cairo last week sentenced Huwaida Taha Mitwalli, a journalist for Al-Jazeera and the London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, to six months in prison on charges of "possessing and giving false pictures about the internal situation in Egypt that could undermine the dignity of the country" in connection with an Al-Jazeera documentary she made about torture in Egypt. The court also fined her 20,000 Egyptian pounds (US$3,518). An Egyptian national, Taha is currently free on bail in Qatar, pending appeal.

    Human Rights Watch said that the sentence, delivered the day before World Press Freedom Day, is emblematic of Egypt's worsening crackdown on freedom of expression:

    On April 14, security officers arrested television journalist and blogger 'Abd al-Monim Mahmud at Cairo airport as he tried to board a plane for Sudan, where he was to work on a television story about human rights abuses in the Arab world for the London-based Al-Hiwar satellite channel.

    Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC), 2nd May 2007

technology & convergence

  • Earlier this month at the second annual CellFlix Film Festival in New York, a very short film (about a six-foot lobster, obviously), made specifically for showing on a mobile handset took top honours. The America-wide contest offers a US$5,000 prize for filmmakers to create a 30-second cellphone video.

    At the other end of the spectrum, Universal Studios has just announced that it is to partner with I-play, a Silicon Valley mobile entertainment company, to provide a video service for mobile phones. The so-called “Movie Minutes” service will feature clips of “blockbusters” and classic fare from Universal Studios’ film archive. It will be available on the Sprint, Verizon, Rogers, (a Canadian Wireless carrier) and Amp'd Mobile networks.

    Movie Minutes is powered by a proprietary mobile video application developed by I-play. It allows consumers to stream video clips and bookmark favourites to build-up a personalised mobile video library. The software also includes a mini media player, that rejoices in the name “I-player.” Don’t tell that nice Mr. Jobs.

    David Gosen, the CEO of I-play points out that “streaming video clips to mobile devices is a huge growth area for us and we are thrilled to be working with Universal Mobile Entertainment.”

    In all the hype and bugle-oil, the word “clips” is perhaps the most telltale. Why? Because it is indicative of the fact that full-length programming is not really feasible yet. Most US networks and handsets simply are not equipped to deal with anything more than video snippets lasting for a few tens of seconds – after that the law of diminishing returns sets in as handset batteries quickly drain of power.

    Dr. Ronjon Nag, the CEO of Cellmania agrees that “in the case of video, the limiting factors are bandwidth and handset characteristics. As the bandwidth capabilities increase, say in 3G/UMTS/EVDO Rev A networks, a lot more is possible such as video streaming and podcasting - however, even in these scenarios, there is a heavy strain on battery life.”

    Weston Henderek, Senior Analyst of Wireless Services at Current Analysis also makes the case that carriers are still trying to figure out the right mix of content to offer and at what price.

    And price is a very touchy issue as most carriers with mobile video/TV services charge a minimum of$15 per month for basic mobile video/TV access. That’s expensive but, as consumers often find out to their cost only after they sign-up, the services often include extra charges per kilobyte of data received, the details of which are hidden away in the multiple pages of almost indecipherable fine print that constitute the average US mobile contract.

    For example, Sprint has a wide range of premium channels that can be had for $3.95 to $9.95 per channel. That’s downright expensive to watch a short video of a 6-foot crustacean.

    Thus, given limited available content and high prices, mobile video/TV usage in the US is currently very low and operators can only hope that as the amount of content increases, a handsets improve and competition forces prices down, usage will increase.

    And this, of course is where where YouTube comes in. Last December the popular online video site teamed- up with Verizon Wireless and began delivering selections from its most popular videos. Elsewhere, millions of Verizon “V CAST” subscribers in the US now can purchase a so-called “VPak subscription” for $15.00 monthly access, or $3.00 daily access, to services including unlimited “basic” video. However, additional application download fees apply for 3D games and “premium” video. The trouble is the distinction between “basic” and “premium” seems arbitrary in the extreme.

    Nonetheless, John Harrobin, the vice president of digital media at Verizon Wireless enthuses about the service. He says,“Delivering YouTube content gives [our] customers a mobile connection to video that has revolutionised how people are being entertained today”.

    Motorola executive VP and CTO, Padmasree Warrior, (really) shares the sentiment. Blogging from the iHollywood conference last week, where she was a featured speaker, Warrior pointed out that “we are starting to think across multiple screens…and sales of portable multimedia units will skyrocket fro $260 million last year to $1.8 billion by 2009 and the mobile phone will be the portable media player of choice because it amounts to a personal digital media gateway people have with them no matter where they are. In Asia, commuters spend over an hour each way shuttling to work with nearly half using public transportation. That is a huge opportunity for both content owners and advertisers.”

    But that’s Asia. In the US, operators and content providers like to think that the mobile video giant is waking from a deep slumber. However, some analysts believe he’s just turning over in his sleep and will continue snoring until roused by the smell of expensive coffee.

    Telecom TV

  • The Sunday Times’s new daily newspaper, The Times, is on track to be distributed to over 120,000 subscribers in early June. Just more than 40 new faces — ranging from experienced hands to interns — have joined online reporters and staff from the Sunday Times in the new venture. They have spent the last week training on editorial systems and have begun planning their diaries for the launch month. Desks, telephones, computers and equipment have been issued.

    The biggest headache has been working out production schedules that will ensure that we have the right skills working at the right time to meet our deadlines, without compromising the freshness of the paper the following morning.

    At the same time, we are working out how to produce regular online video and audio podcasts to make the website a really attractive source of exciting visual news throughout the day.

    The newsroom consists of reporters, photographers and multimedia journalists who will produce video for the web. They will sit side-by-side, working out news diaries together and, hopefully, passing on skills to one another.

    Reporters will start hitting the streets this week as we prepare for a series of practice runs to fine- tune our scheduling.

    I have been fielding questions on my online blog, and been writing about the “mind-numbing, bone- crunching” meetings I have had around budgets for equipment. For all the hype out there, The Times is a new product and it has to operate on a tight budget.

    I am yet to encounter anyone who is not excited about it . Below is a list of frequently asked questions that I posted online.

    Q: Why is the Sunday Times doing this?

    A: This is about growing and building the Sunday Times brand by extending its reach into the week and on the web. The Times is a Sunday Times project. It will be delivered to 120 000 Sunday Times subscribers in the metropolitan areas. This will build the Sunday Times subscriber base. At the same time, this new multimedia daily newsroom will power up our Internet offering with multimedia and more frequent original content throughout the day. We aim to bring younger readers who do not necessarily see newspapers as their first choice for news into our readership fold via the website.

    Q: Multimedia and print? How is this going to work?

    A: We are throwing out the traditional newsroom model and going for a totally integrated print and web operation. This means that multimedia producers will sit side-by-side with reporters and photographers, plan together and teach each other skills. There is an acknowledgement of specialisation — we are not going to make the mistake of thrusting a camera into the hands of print journalists and asking them to “also shoot a little video” while they are about it. This approach can lead to bad video and bad print unless you are one of a handful of highly skilled and motivated individuals who can operate across mediums.

    Q: But the Internet is so small in this country and the ad spend is so limited. Isn’t this all a little premature?

    A: We believe in print which is why we are launching a new newspaper. Print is not dead or dying in this country, it is thriving. But the roll-out of cheaper broadband offerings and greater competition is on the horizon. When this happens, we want to have moved into a good position to offer the sorts of sophisticated multimedia products that broadband enables.

    Q: Interactive. What does that mean?

    A: The way people read and respond to the news is changing. There is a growing demand for interactivity — a desire to comment on, vote on or criticise the news. This is already reflected in greater letter writing to the Sunday Times and the opening of new avenues for comment such as SMS. The Times and our website will meet this demand for interactivity.

    Q: Are there any plans to sell this newspaper to people other than subscribers?

    A: No. The idea is to sell Sunday Times subscriptions and build the mother brand.

    Business Times, 13 May 2007

  • Nigeria is finally all set to move to the next generation mobile telephony operation with two of the country's three major operators, MTN Nigeria and Globacom meeting their financial obligation to the Nigerian Communications Commission's (NCC) requirement of $150 million payment each for their respective 3G licences.

    Both operators who had eagerly anticipated the final nod from the regulatory agency, were prepared when it came, and they gleefully went to town rejoicing. Chris Ehimen, Globacom Head of Consumer Marketing said with the allocation of frequency spectrum to Glo by the NCC, it was now ready to launch 3G services in the country.

    The NCC's letter of final approval and spectrum allocation to Globacom via letter dated 16 April 2007 was signed by Ms. Josephine Amuwa. "After pioneering 2.5G services in the Nigerian market, the launch of 3G services by Glo mobile is the natural evolution for a company committed to providing subscribers the tools to 'rule their world', said Ehimen.

    MTN Nigeria which also got its final nod at the weekend has announced all its new switches will be the Soft Switch Technology Next Generation Switches from Ericsson to cater for increased traffic carrying capacity which will enhance easy access to the Network.

    MTN which is Nigeria's leading mobile operator with over 11 million subscribers said it has commenced a massive network expansion which is aimed at providing world-class quality service to its teeming subscribers across the country. "The network expansion, which started early this year, will cost the company over $650 million and should provide the necessary infrastructure for 3G services.

    It will be recalled that MTN Nigeria was recently the first GSM operator to have paid and been awarded a 3G licence by the Nigerian Communications Commission and has since paid $150 million for the licence," said Andrew Okeleke, MTN Nigeria External Affairs Manager.

    The acquisition of the 3G license will provide the appropriate technology for innovative products and services in the area of multi-media streaming and communication. Mr. Ahmad Farroukh, MTN Nigeria CEO, said the "massive expansion will involve additional 14 switches being integrated into the current 41 switches in 12 switching centres, while the current 2661 base stations spread around the country are expected to increase to over 3,500 before the end of this year. All our new switches will be of the Soft Switch Technology Next Generation variety, which caters for increased traffic capacity."

    MTN's network presently covers 578 Local Government Areas, amounting to 534,012.68SqKm or 58.33percent of Nigeria landmass. Similarly, approximately 95 million people or about 81 percent of Nigeria's population are within areas covered by MTN Nigeria.

    The company has expended more than $ 3Billion over a five year period, in the development of the network and its cutting edge features. Farroukh said that MTN Nigeria has also launched IP/MPLS network into major cities to provide high value data services to business customers and improve business technology. "This latest technology is capable of carrying Video, Data, and Voice at the same time," he assured.

    The aggressive network expansion programme will also see MTN Nigeria undertaking dual band upgrades on 571 base stations and normal cabinet upgrades on 105 base stations to provide additional dependable network capacity. Similarly, additional 70 core nodes will be integrated for high quality service on the network before the end of 2007.

    Globacom is also expected to build on high capacity with the 3G addition having pioneered a number of products since coming on stream in 2003. Despite its late entrance to the Nigerian mobile market, the indigenous operator has proved to be a great success in service delivery.

    "With 3G platform, Nigerians would be offered high speed internet access, video calling and video streaming, phone-to-phone video telephony, video greeting kiosk and video mail box. We are empowering our subscribers with the next generation of technological advances available in advanced countries. This will inevitably benefit the lives and businesses of the subscribers that utilize these products," said Ehimen.

    3G is a third generation technology in the context of mobile phone standards and capable of transferring data at speeds of up to 384kps thereby allowing both voice and data to be transferred simultaneously. According to Ehimen, Glo 3G network is expected to reach 1.8Mbps using HSDPA.

    Vanguard Lagos, 30th April 2007

more

  • • Blu-ray disc and HD DVD player to be introduced into the South African market in the third quarter of 2007. LG Electronics said last week that it will be launching the "Super Multi Blue" dual-format, high definition disc player during the third quarter of 2007.

    • BBC Africa Radio Awards (Nairobi, Kenya) – 26th May

    § Ghana Journalist Association Awards – August

    Kenya: NMG Chairman Hannington Awori Calls It a Day

    Long-serving Board member and Chairman of the Nation Media Group, Hannington Awori, has retired. He has been chairman of the Nation Media Group since September 2000 and a member of the Board of Directors for more than 18 years.

    Announcing his retirement at a Board meeting at the Nation Centre last Wednesday, Mr Awori said his most recent term as a director was expiring this month, and therefore, he had decided to step down so that a new chairman could help guide the Group through the next phase of its development.

    Accepting his retirement, the Board expressed its deep gratitude for his service, and has issued a statement through Gerry Wilkinson, another long-serving member of the Board.

    It said: "The Nation Media Group has indeed been fortunate that its Board of Directors has been chaired by Hannington Awori over the past seven and a half years. This has been a period of proud accomplishment for NMG, in its continuing editorial excellence, in the broadening scope of its activities and in its financial progress. Chairman Awori's wise leadership has contributed significantly to this record, and we salute and thank him upon his retirement for his long and distinguished service - both as Chairman, and as a member of the Board for nearly two decades."

    The Board will elect a new chairman in due course. Awori joined the board in April 1989. When the finance and audit committee of the board was created in 1993, he became its first chairman. In 2000, he succeeded Dr B.M. Gecaga as Chairman of the full Board.

    Financially, the years of Awori's chairmanship were particularly successful ones for NMG. In a little over seven years, the company's market capitalisation increased more than five-fold (from Sh2.9 billion to Sh17.23 billion). Company turnover more than doubled during that period.

    Among other major initiatives, Awori played a key role in the acquisition by NMG of a majority shareholding in Monitor Publications Limited in Uganda in 2000, and, two ye